Hurricanes return from Covid-19 layoff to topple Lightning in OT

Los Angeles (AFP) –


The Carolina Hurricanes second attempt at starting the season got off to a rousing start on Thursday following an unexpected layoff due to coronavirus concerns.

Martin Necas scored 72 seconds into overtime to break a scoreless tie as the short-handed Hurricanes beat the reigning Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning 1-0 in the Hurricanes' first game in 10 days.

Carolina have played just four games this season as a half dozen of their players have been placed on the Covid-19 unavailable list.

"It felt like the start of the season all over again," forward Jordan Staal said. "It was a weird feeling going into the game. (Coach Rod Brind'Amour) did a good job of making sure we were on the attack to get after them right away."

Goaltender Petr Mrazek earned the shutout by stopping 32 shots for the Hurricanes, who were playing their first game since beating Nashville on January 18.

They returned to practice this week and despite missing key players, the depth and conditioning issues that Brind'Amour feared might crop up did not materialize in their home opener.

Tampa's all-star goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy made 34 saves but it wasn't enough as captain Staal broke in on a two on one and floated a soft pass over to Czech Necas who chipped it over Vasilevskiy's leg pad into the upper half of the net. It was Necas' first goal of the season.

Staal was the first player to come off the Covid-19 list, taking part in Tuesday's first full team practice.

Five players who went on the Covid-19 list the day of the Nashville postponement were still on it this week, including wingers Teuvo Teravainen, Jordan Martinook and Warren Foegele, and defenceman Jaccob Slavin. Forward Jesper Fast, who was signed from the New York Rangers in the off-season, has also been on the list.

The shortage of bodies provided Brind'Amour the opportunity to give some of the younger players additional ice time, including Canadian forward Steven Lorentz, who made his NHL debut and played 14 minutes.

Undrafted forward Sheldon Rempal made his season debut and had previously played in just seven NHL games with the Los Angeles Kings.